Obama: Americans 'Don't Want Me Just Standing Around Twiddling My Thumbs'

"I'm going to seize those opportunities" to make progress using executive authority, Obama tells ABC's Jonathan Karl.
5:15 | 08/07/14

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Transcript for Obama: Americans 'Don't Want Me Just Standing Around Twiddling My Thumbs'
You're running for president you said quote. The biggest problems we're facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more tolerant to the executive branch. And not go through congress at all that's what I intend to reverse. So my question to you. Has congress' inability. To anything significant giving you a green light to push the limits of executive power. Even a duty to do so or or put another way does it bother you more to be accused of being an imperial president pushing those limits or. To be accused of being a do nothing president couldn't get anything done because he faced dysfunctional. Well that the. The all right I think -- I never ever green -- I'm bound by the constitution I'm bound by. Separation of powers there's some things we can't -- congress as the power the first for example. I would love to fund. A large infrastructure of -- Proposal right now that would put millions of people who work -- boost are the GDP. We know we've got. Roads and bridges and airports. Electrical grids would need to be rebuilt. But without the cooperation congress what I can do -- speed up. Permitting process for -- for example I can make sure that were working with the private sector to see if we can. Channel investment in the much needed projects. But. Ultimately congress just passed a budget and authorize spent. So -- I don't have a green -- What I am consistently going to do. Is where ever I have the legal authorities. To make progress. On behalf of middle class Americans folks working to get in the middle class. Whether it's buyer making sure the federal contractors are. Paying a fair wage to their workers. Making sure that women. Have the opportunity to make sure that they're getting paid. The same as men for doing the same job. Where I have the capacity. Two. You expand some student loan programs that would part put in place of that repayments -- little more affordable for college graduates. I'm gonna take -- seize those opportunities. And that's where I think the American people expect me to do. My preference. In all these instances. Is to work with congress. Because. Not only can congress do more. But it's going to be longer lasting. And -- when you look at for example. Congressional inaction. And in particular -- an action on the part of house Republicans. When it comes to immigration reform. But here's an area where -- as upset before. Not only the American people want to see action not only. Is there 80% overlap between what Republicans there -- -- of Democrats there want we actually passed a bill out of the sudden there was bipartisan. And in those circumstances. What what the American people expect. Is that. Despite the differences between the parties there should at least be the capacity to move forward on things we agree -- And and that's not what we're seeing right now so. -- in the face of that kind of dysfunction. What I can do is. They'll scour. Our authorities to try to make progress. And we're gonna make sure that every time we take one of these steps. That we are working within. The confines -- -- power but. I promise -- American people don't want me. Just standing around what my thumbs waiting. For congress to get something done. Even as we take is executive actions I'm gonna continue to reach out to Democrats and Republicans to the speakers. The the leadership. On both sides. And in both chambers. Took to try to come up with formulas where we can make progress even if it's increment. If you have the power to grant work permits to those who are here legally as some of -- -- suggested what I certainly. Recognized and where would respect immigration reform -- service in the past. Is that. We have a broken system. It's under resource. And we've got to make choices in terms of how we. Allocate personnel and resources so if I'm -- -- for example send more immigration judges down to the border process. -- -- accompanied. Children that have arrived at the border and that's. Coming from someplace else and we're gonna have to prioritize. That's -- -- -- authorities. And -- prosecutorial discretion. My preference would be an actual conference of admiration. -- And we are you have a bipartisan law that would solve a whole bunch of these problems until that happens -- -- to make choices that's what I was elected to.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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